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Back You are here: Home Sports Hockey Other Hockey: The Boland Success Story
Thursday, 12 January 2017 08:54

Hockey: The Boland Success Story

IT is remarkable how a relatively small group of people in a geographic region can make such an “outsize” impact on the national scene.

Talking schools hockey, the Boland certainly fits that billing.

Andreas Bartsch has played an integral role in the success of the province this year.

“Jon, you prompted me with the question, “How a relatively small number of Boland players are achieving so much”.

“I could not respond immediately – in fact, I had to apply my mind to, what I believe, are some of the success factors,” says Andreas, who was chairperson of Boland Schools Hockey this year.

“To put the question into perspective, it is probably necessary to provide the relevant context. In 2013, the Boland girls U18 team were the first ever Boland interprovincial nationals (IPT) tournament winners. During 2015 and 2016, Boland Schools Hockey achieved three from a possible eight IPT gold medals, as well as onebronze, against the strongest hockey oppositionwithin South Africa.”

When one considers the size of Western Province and Southern Gauteng schools’ hockey, to take just two examples, it is a special achievement.

Boland’s hockey “hub” mainly consists of towns like Stellenbosch, Somerset-West and Paarl, complemented by a vast region with small towns from so-called “rural’” areas. In hockey numbers, Boland are minnows in comparison to the more acknowledged hockey powers of Western Province, KZN (Coastal and Inland) and Gauteng (Southerns and Northerns).

It is well to note, too, the incredible success of the Boland teams in the annual Pro Series Indoor Nationals tournaments, which is piloted primarily by the former SA captain and Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Olympian Bruce Jacobs.

The Boland successes in 2016 were furthermore highlighted by three regional gold medals, oneregional silver andtwo regionalbronze. No less than11 Boland teams made it through to semi-finals, while six of nine Boland Schools teams achieved top five positions at the various age-group Interprovincial Nationals tournaments.

There were also many individual players who made SA selection as well as receiving awards, while the local schools in the Boland also performedmore than admirably against strong competition from across the country – achievements to be proud of.

So how did this success come about then, Andreas?

“Whilst there is probably not a single, magic ingredient, it is rather a combination of factors that contributed to these successes, some of which are probably obvious, others subtler, yet important.

“So, in no specific order …

  • Firstly, and importantly, a group of motivated, talented, yet humble players; many of whom have, coincidentally, a strong indoor hockey background through Pro Series Indoor, which is so ably piloted by Bruce Jacobs.
  • Boland Schools Hockey is focused on providing the regions with the opportunities to participate, supporting the enthusiasm, passion, pride and talent of the remote schools.
    We believe very firmly in the value that is inherent in the schools that are not in the bigger centres, we see the level of innate talent that can be unlocked if due attention is paid to these ‘lower-profile’ institutions.
  • Investing in a high-quality, accredited, Boland Schools High Performance hockey program, with development initiatives also expanding to the local coaches and umpires.
  • We in the Boland are also fortunate in that we are supported by schools and individuals which place a strong emphasis on hockey as well as the vitally important strategic vision to advance the sport within our institutions.
  • The implementation of Astro turf hockey facilities at various schools is certainly a necessary ingredient for increased quality and associated successes – and we are seeing much progress in this regard. Indeed, the more success that comes from within and without the Boland province, the greater the impetus on developing more synthetic turf hockey pitches.
  • Communication is also a key component of establishing a successful, winning hockey province. There is a regular scheduling of information evenings and related sessions for parents and players. These get-togethers have been fundamental in promoting communication and transparency. Information is also readily available on the Boland website or Facebook group.

    Another critical factor has been the establishment of one organisation [or committee], with well-defined portfolios, governing Boland Schools Hockey; both high schools and primary schools’ hockey, for boys and girls. This enables synergies and associated cost savings, as well as development opportunities.
  • Adopting a business approach has been fundamental in becoming operational, with surplus funds being re-invested into Boland Schools Hockey.
  • Ensuring sound, audited finances by a recognised professional body also brings confidence and transparency. Generating industry standard invoices and statements are also instrumental in achieving trust in the organisation’s financial matters.
  • The involvement of parents in key roles within the organisation has also contributed greatly to the progress of Boland Schools hockey. Harnessing in an effective manner the passion and enthusiasm of individuals with a vested interest, complemented by the hockey expertise, love for the sport and educational know-how of the educator and the professional coach. The sensible balance of parent and educator role-players is a subtle, but fundamental differentiator.

From what Andreas says, it is crystal clear that Boland Schools Hockey has developed a hockey culture that players, parents, coaches and managers happily buy into.

Here’s to the future of Boland school hockey. May it strive to continue improving while always remaining humble and intent on doing the best it can do.

And Boland has also made an impact on the international front.

One of the biggest role-players in the success of Boland Schools hockey is undoubtedly Neville Rothman, the “Mr Hockey” of Paul Roos Gimnasium, a government schoolforboys in the town of Stellenbosch.

Neville was head coach of the SA U18A Schoolboys hockey team that succeeded where others before have strived and failed, a 3-0 Test match series defeat of Australia Schoolboys in the series that took place at Pretoria Boys High School in July.

"Approaching a series against Australia is always a massive challenge," says Rothman.

Truer words have never been said and with these words in mind it is well to think for a moment on the seriousness with which SA head coach for the U18A national hockey team Neville Rothman and the inner circle went about the task.

The SA U18 selectors under the experienced guidance of convenor Alan Redfern knew that the 2016 Interprovincial Nationals U18 BoysHockey Week at the University of The Free State in Bloemfontein at the end of June was crucial to ensure that the best team was selected to meet that challenge.

Having been a close observer in Bloem during IPT Nationals, I can attest to the countless hours spent deliberating over players.

"And how they needed to meet certain specific criteria was crucial, so all the effort of sifting through and evaluating so many promising players proved worth it," says Rothman, who is director of hockey at Paul Roos in his day job.

"The SA U18A team were very diligent and mature in their approach throughout the entire process of the series and never once took any lead or win for granted.

"The team's leadership group of team captain Andrew Hobson and his lieutenants Spencer Botes, Max Pike and Chris Makaba was always quietly steering the team in the right direction."

Rothman says there were passages of play during the three-match series that would have pleased even the most demanding of coaches.

"The standout performance was the first half of the second international where these young SA hockey men executed everything that was asked of them - and then some," says Rothman, a mentor who is not easily pleased.

"However, to also know that you have won the series after the second international and then to still come out and ensure a clean sweep against their Australian counterparts was a sign of the SA U18A lads' determination to finish off a phenomenal week in the colours of their country in style."

A team without a top-flight support staff will always under-perform but to this end the boys had no problems.

"A special mention must be made of our excellent biokineticist Khavesh Harry, our manager and London 2012 Olympian Lance Louw, as well as our SA U18A assistant coach Garreth Ewing, who is also the SA senior team assistant coach and head coach of the SA U21 Men's 2016 Junior World Cup team.

"Their contribution to the success of this series was immense. Thank you, gents, SA Schools Hockey salutes you."

So, it’s hats off to the SA U18A boys for achieving their historic first ever 3-0 series whitewash – and take a boy Boland Schools Hockey for having such a gem in your midst in Mr Neville Rothman.